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Habits and Activities for De-Stressing

I was chatting on FaceBook today with a guy from my church who is learning to be a network engineer. He's a smart guy and his dad is in IT, too. John is his name and he has helped me in the past with IT-related work that we needed to do around the church. He's not afraid or too above doing the stuff that's just got to be done, like doing cable runs in the ceiling. As you might guess, I love working with and talking with John. We were chatting about a project he had for class where they had to figure out a plan and cost it out for wiring a four-story building. A very practical exercise. As we wrapped up the conversation, he made a point that I always have a lot going on. Another friend of mine, the wife of one of my former pastors and a man I still consider a mentor in minstry, remarked that I'm very much like her husband, with "too many irons in the fire." She's right that I'm like him. I don't know that I could be satisfied not being constantly engaged in stuff. It drives my wife crazy sometimes, but that's the way I'm wired. Even with that said, I still need to take time to destress and unwind.

One of the activities that I used to do a lot for that was play flute. I blogged about getting back to doing that every day. It's been slow going getting back into the habit, but my tone is coming back, and I'm enjoying it. I played for about an hour before I went to to bed and it did serve to relax me greatly. The great thing about playing music like this is I can play out my stress and my emotions, especially by choosing music that expresses how I feel or just doing a bit of improv. It's an activity I've needed to get back into and I am glad that I have.

Another thing I do to destress is walk. I sometimes do this at work for lunch. I'll wolf down my meal and then head out for a couple of miles. Since I work downtown in Columbia, SC, there's good sidewalks and there are some streets which don't have a whole lot of traffic. They are out the back of my building, so it's really easy to get out, spend about 45 minutes trudging around, and just thinking and letting go of whatever has gotten me worked up. Or, if there's something that's really pressing hard on me, I'll take a 15 minute break and walk a couple of times around the block, then head back in refreshed. It's amazing how stepping away from 15 minutes and disconnecting from a computer can really help clear the mind and release the anxiety and stress that so often accompanies our profession.

In any case, I think anyone who works in IT should have activities and habits that help them relax. A friend of mine, who shall remain unnamed, has seemed stressed out a lot lately. He doesn't get up and do anything at lunch time, continuing to plug away at his desk. He doesn't really take breaks. And I've watched him get spun up as the day grows long. I can tell it's taking a toll on his health and his sanity, but that's how he's choosing to handle things. I've tried to encourage him to at least step away for a few minutes, and he does from time-to-time, but far less than he needs to. I hope that aspect changes in the near future. He's been a friend for years and I don't like seeing him suffer when he has the ability to do something to alleviate some of the pressure and stress.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Andy Warren on 22 October 2009

Brian, it's great that you've found an outlet that works. For me, it's an hour in the garage trying to improve my woodworking skills, just makes me focus on one thing, no multi tasking!

I think stress is a lot like intoxication, it impairs your judgement, and becomes a downward loop. It's one place where more managers could do a lot better job by stopping it - easy enough to see the signs, and it's always going to be cheaper to fix than to replace the person when they melt down, cheaper than living with diminished productivity until they finally recover.

Posted by Steve Jones on 22 October 2009

I'm not sure how I unwind. It seems that I run from thing to thing!

I do task switch often. Go running during the day, I might go outside and throw the ball for a dog, or run an errand. Take a break for karate, with the intention of working at night. Or just leave and go ski at times :)

Glad you've found something. I thought Columbia was nice near USC. Took a trip down there in high school.

Posted by ubeauty on 26 October 2009

Great article Brian and it's so good to hear you've found an interest outside of your normal computer based threshold.

I've just started to realise the benefits of taking five in the working day and trying to find activities outside of the office that doesn't involve being sat in front of a screen. I was in a downward spiral and found myself struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. It's a hard challenge though to de-plug yourself but well worth it, as hopefully in my case not only myself will reap the benefits but my partner and two young daughters also.

Keep up the great work

Posted by Paul Mu on 26 October 2009

Brian, an important reminder for us all.

I would suggest watching old TV series to de-stress; particularly those that make you laugh at the same time. These will bring back all those good ol memories - the ones that makes you think everything was much better in those days!

But above all else, avoid being stressed out in the first place. I would suggest a 9-5 working week, a few hours stint at the gym, eat well and sleep well.

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